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Isaiah 14:12 NET "Look how you have fallen from the sky, O shining one, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the ground, O conqueror of the nations!"

Every Lexicon, Dictionary, and reference I've looked at indicates that הילל is from the root הלל, and not from ילל.

  • Brown-Driver-Briggs "shining one"
  • Dictionary of Biblical Languages: Hebrew "light-bearing object in the sky"
  • Dictionary of Classical Hebrew "shining one"
  • Lexham Analytical Lexicon "morning-star or crescent moon"

הילל is not hapax legomenon. It is also found in Jeremiah 47:2, Zechariah 11:2, and Ezekiel 21:12. In those three places interlinears and morphologies indicate it's a word with the ילל root and they translate it as wailing or howling. A direct search by typing in הילל in the lexicons above do not give results that indicate the meaning in these three other passages is even possible.

Have translators misidentified the root for this passage and gotten in wrong? If they have not come to the wrong translation what reasons can be given for הלל being the proper root only for this passage and not the other three listed?

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    We could also turn this question around. What is the evidence that an array of professional lexicographers and ancient translations (LXX) got it wrong? Jan 29, 2022 at 12:24
  • The primary reason would be that 3 of the 4 times it shows up in the text it's translated "Wail!" Jan 30, 2022 at 15:19
  • I think you are missing something. It is not the root that shows up, but inflected forms. This particular form only occurs as wail as an imperative. Does the imperative fit in this context? I think the commentary cited by Perry is pointing pretty clearly at the existing interpretations of it: "his son is the “morning star” (hēlāl)". This context looks a lot like name + son of, not imperative + son of. Jan 30, 2022 at 20:28
  • @DanielRidings I think you're probably right that the pattern leans that way. I'm only in very basic Hebrew so someone adding an explanation of how on earth you go from הלל to הילל as a conjugation would help me. I already understand adding a ה at the beginning of a word, don't know about the yod insertion, is that normal for a particular conjugation? Keep in mind the vowel markings are millennia from this point in time so we're just talking about actual letters used. Jan 31, 2022 at 2:46
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    For some reason I can't tag you, but the "h" (can't write Hebrew on this computer, in the existing interpretation is simply part of the the root, but if you use the "yod-lamed-lamed" root, then you need the hiphil conjugation, the imperative, in order to get the combination of consonants, and that doesn't fit well here. Enjoy your trip through Hebrew. A beautiful language. Feb 1, 2022 at 20:03

2 Answers 2

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The more one researches this the more questions arise rather than answers. At the very least the root ילל has at least equal possibility with the root הלל. However, tradition favors הלל. This is the position that the Septuagint (LXX) translators took. The LXX was the Old Testament used by the early Church, thus forming traditions. If Gesenius's statement about Jerome's view (ילל) of Isaiah 14:12 is correct, Christian leaders must have talked him into the traditional (הלל) lucifer in the Vulgate. Then, some argue for a parallel (to הלל) in Ugaritic literature. The root ילל has the advantage that it fits the imperative form which fits the context. (I would tend toward the root ילל as the best answer.) However, the root הלל makes הֵילֵ֣ל a noun with a meaning that is also possible. Both roots have people endorsing very early, and we are too far removed to tell. Greek has a huge amount of literature outside the New Testament, but we do not have this luxury with the Hebrew of the Old Testament.

Isaiah 14:12 even in the JPS Tanakh is translated:

  How are you fallen from heaven, 
  O Shining One, son of Dawn! 
  How are you felled to earth, 
  O vanquisher of nations! 

If you take root to be ילל, it would be "howling/wailing one" instead of "Shining One." In Jeremiah 47:2, Zechariah 11:2, and Ezekiel 21:12 the forms are verbs, not nouns. Jeremiah 47:2 and Ezekiel 21:12 have the waw consecutive (וְהֵילִ֕ל). Only Zechariah 11:2 is exactly the same in letters including vowel points, and it is an imperative, which isn't used as a noun. The Septuagint translates it ὁ ἑωσφόρος (morning, morning star). To be accurate, you would need to translate this as an imperative verb "Wail, son of Dawn." Who translates הֵילֵ֣ל in Isaiah 14:12 "howling/wailing?"

Micah answered this question, "Aquila in the 2nd century AD to Greek." The root ילל does also fit the context and could be translated.

  How are you fallen from heaven, 
  Wail, son of Dawn! 
  How are you felled to earth, 
  O vanquisher of nations! 

Like Zechariah 11:2 translated by JPS.

          Wail [הֵילֵ֤ל], O cypress, for the cedar has fallen, 
  for the glorious trees are ruined! 
              Wail [הֵילִ֨ילוּ֙, plural], oaks of Bashan, 
  for the thick forest has been felled! 

However, what is hard to explain is why we don't find Jews translating הֵילֵ֣ל in Isaiah 14:12 as from the root ילל. It's not because the Latin Vulgate translates הֵילֵ֤ל as lucifer which means light-bringing, morning star, not a proper name. At least an Orthodox Jew told me they don't believe the devil is a real being.

Lexicon

הֵילֵל Isa. 14:12 according to LXX., Vulg., Targ. Rabbin. Luth., stella lucida, bright star, i.e. Lucifer. Nor is this a bad rendering, for there is added בֶּן־שַׁחַר and in the Chaldee also Lucifer [the morning star], is called כּוֹכַב נָגְהָה, in Arab. زُهَرَةُ i.e. splendid star. According to this opinion הֵילֵל would be derived from the root הלל to shine; as a participial noun of the conj. קֵיטֵל, (comp. Arab. بَيْطَرَ, Syr. ܣܰܝܒܰܪ and the like), or else of a quadriliteral verb הילל, comp. הֵיכָל, הֵידָד. However, הֵילֵל itself is not unfrequently Imper. Hiph. of the verb יָלַל in the signification wail, lament (Eze. 21:17; Zec. 11:2), and this does not appear less suitable, and is adopted by Syr., Aqu. and Jerome. [“This is less suitable.” Ges. corr.] -- Gesenius, W., & Tregelles, S. P. (2003). In Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures (pp. 222–223). Logos Bible Software.

Commentaries

Shining and high was he once, like the morning star; now he is fallen from heaven. הֵילֵל, shining star, is called “son of the morning,” because it seems to emerge out of the morning dawn (comes et alumnus aurorae). “In the southern heavens, when mirrored in the waves of the sea, this planet has a brighter gleam than with us” (LEYRER in HERZ.R. Encycl. XIX. p. 563). TERTULLIAN, GREGORY THE GREAT, and latterly STIER, with reference to Luke 10:18, have taken the star fallen from heaven for Satan. -- Lange, J. P., Schaff, P., Nägelsbach, C. W. E., Lowrie, S. T., & Moore, D. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Isaiah (p. 187). Logos Bible Software.

Commentary supporting הלל with the root, sighting connection to Ugarit literature.

O morning star, son of the dawn: The king is identified with a mythological figure from Canaanite religion. From the Ugaritic texts we know of Shahar, the god of “dawn” (šāḥar); his son is the “morning star” (hēlāl), giving us the mythical Helal ben Shahar. The Vg translates “morning star” as “Lucifer.” Some fathers of the Church have applied this verse to the fall of Satan, prince of demons.13. The entire verse swarms with Canaanite imagery, now familiar from the Ugaritic literature (VBW 3, 39). The writer has used an ancient Canaanite myth about a lesser god’s attempt to become head of the pantheon to illustrate the pride of an earthly king. The mount of assembly refers to a sacred mountain on the N Syrian coast; it was called Mt. Caseus and today is known as Jebel Aqra. -- Brown, R. E., Fitzmyer, J. A., & Murphy, R. E. (1996). The Jerome Biblical commentary (Vol. 1, p. 274). Prentice-Hall.

A counter to the Ugaritic connection is at the link: https://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1279&context=lts_fac_pubs

Abstract: Many scholars of the Hebrew Bible have postulated that the source of the taunt-song of Isa xiv 12-15 is to be found in Ugaritic religious literature Many of these scholars believe that the passage contains elements of both El and Baal myths, an assumption that leads them to discount the proposition that all the mythological strands of Isa xiv 12-15 can be correlated with a single Ugaritic myth Still others contend that only a single myth concerning the usurpation of El can account for all of the mythological features This article disputes both of these positions, arguing that no usurpation of El is in view, and that the mythological provenance of Isa xiv 12-15 can be entirely correlated with the Baal-Athtar myth. -- https://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1279&context=lts_fac_pubs

See What is the correct translation of הֵילֵ֣ל?; ends with:

The third case of "Wail" seems to make the most sense from the context, and the hermeneutics is especially great, but can anyone verify with some reference or authoritative source that "the Hif'il imperative conjugation of the lemma יָלַל (yalal) is הֵילֵ֣ל?"

In the comments:

@andrewmh20 It's not a full explanation yet because it doesn't answer the question of how grammatically הֵילֵ֣ל descends from הָלַל; how is this case made? It's a similar question to how we might know יָלַל conjugates to הֵילֵ֣ל – ahnnyoung Sep 3 '15 at 18:32

@ahnnyoung I don't think that's really relevant....obviously they are related, but one does not directly descend from the other. The Lexicon brings the verb הלל, and it's conjugations...but הילל is amount, not a verb so there is no "descent", at least how I understand your question. The Lexicon cross references the Assyrian "mustilil" if that helps... – andrewmh20 Sep 3 '15 at 18:53

See How many times does the Hebrew word הֵילֵל (heilel) occur in the Masoretic text?

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    The only person I know of that translated Isaiah 14:12 as howling/wailing was Aquila in the 2nd century AD to Greek. Would the waw change anything? You still haven't given a reason why it's using the root for shining just declaring that even more people use it that way in modern times. Jan 27, 2022 at 13:46
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    Your question is good. I'll have more time to look at this later today.
    – Perry Webb
    Jan 27, 2022 at 18:16
  • @Micah See the quote from Gesenius's lexicon.
    – Perry Webb
    Jan 28, 2022 at 1:20
  • Gesenius hint's what might give important historic information. Jerome translated the Vulgate, Yet he has the 'Vulgate supporting one and Jerome the other. This hints that someone talked Jerome into translating different than what he thought.
    – Perry Webb
    Jan 28, 2022 at 19:46
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    @MicahGafford it woudn't be "howling" or "wailing", but "howl!" "wail!" (imperative). The consonants would not fit any other form of the alternative root. Jan 29, 2022 at 12:31
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Perry's answer here is good. But, we need to place it in context of that prophesy to see the meaning of the better translations. The translations that substitute Jerome's "Lucifer" for "morning star", or "shining one" are incorrect and are bringing in a presumption. Those that have "morning star" or "o shining one" are using it correctly when we see who Isaiah was referring to - the king of Babylon.

"That thou hast taken up this simile Concerning the king of Babylon, and said, How hath the exactor ceased," (Isa. 14:4, YLT)

As the king of Babylon was a Chaldean, and referred to himself as the son of the highest pagan god of those people - most probably Attar (Ishtar) which was Venus, the morning star, then a touch of irony is being used in this prophesy. That king of Babylon was proudly exalting himself above the Most High, above the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob - the stars of Heaven.

As God had promised Abraham's descendants would be multiplied "as the stars of heaven" (Gen. 22:17; 26:4; Ex. 32:13), then we can see the reference.

"12 How hast thou fallen from the heavens, O shining one, son of the dawn! Thou hast been cut down to earth, O weakener of nations. 13 And thou saidst in thy heart: the heavens I go up, Above stars of God I raise my throne, And I sit in the mount of meeting in the sides of the north." (Isa. 14:12-13, YLT)

"O shining one, son of the dawn" was the description of the pagan god Attar. In prophesy, falling from heaven, being cut down to earth was being removed from power of political authority. God was referring to that king in the king's own description of himself - the morning star - according to the king's pagan religion.

Keeping the verse in context of the subject matter of that prophesy was the downfall of that proudful king who dared to exalt himself above the Most High Creator.

See also the discussion of "helel" at this earlier question here

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  • @PerryWebb- I think you mean as in Zech. 11:2? And b/c you had already made clear this usage as the verb, which does not apply to Isa. 14:12. Isa. 14:12 is the noun "הלל". The "יָלַל" in the other three are not the same meaning. The only thing that your answer lacked was to put it in context.
    – Gina
    Jan 29, 2022 at 13:53
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    Your answer only addresses an interpretation with the root הלל and doesn't address the possibility of the root ילל as in Zechariah 11:2.
    – Perry Webb
    Jan 29, 2022 at 13:59
  • Interesting aspects could lead us that direction in translation. This answer makes a lot of assertions instead of citing sources. The first paragraph directly contradicts itself. It might be that you have a nuanced meaning in there about the reason translators chose words but it mostly just looks like you say morning star / shining one is incorrect but morning star or o shining one is correct. Jan 30, 2022 at 15:17

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